Hearing in a Deaf World
Hearing in a Deaf World
Part Seven — The Final Chapter
My parents had my brother and me later in life for the time, but not for lack of trying. They both often gave credit for our conception to a doctor who told my dad to switch to boxers, believe it or not. My father passed away when I was 24 – leaving me devastated and lost. I always went to him with my problems and for advice. I wasn’t ready to navigate the world without him. When I first moved out on my own, he knew that I didn’t have much money left after paying my bills, so he would drop by after work with some groceries and to slip me a $20 bill - “don’t tell mom” he would say – although I am quite sure he told her himself. He left me too soon, but he left me with a legacy of compassion and advocating for others. My dad never felt sorry for himself – in fact he was proud of being deaf. I recall a time when he borrowed hearing aids from a friend and wore them to work where he operated printing presses. He came home that day complaining of a terrible headache saying “Donna! Do you know that everything makes noise? Even when I rub my shirt, it makes a noise! I couldn’t stand it! I had to take them out. Never again! I don’t want to hear! I’m happy to be deaf – this world is too loud!” My dad, mom, and I all had a good laugh over his hearing aid experience and my mom said “No thank you – not worth it.” After my dad passed away, we asked my mom if there was anything she felt like she missed because of her deafness. Her response was “I would like to be able to hear music and my children and grandchildren’s voices.” Soon after, my brother took her for a cochlear implant consultation, but her hearing loss was too profound for it to be an option for her. I like to believe that they both can hear us now from the afterlife.
I was fortunate enough to have my mom with me until my mid-40s, when she succumbed to ovarian cancer that metastasized to various parts of her body. I miss her terribly, even though our relationship could be tumultuous at times. She expected a lot from me as her daughter and admittedly, I sometimes resented her for it. I would give anything to have her back so we could bicker again, but of course, that isn’t possible. As strong as she was, I felt like she sometimes used her deafness as a crutch and relied on others more than I think my dad did. I tried my best to make her more independent in the years after my dad passed on and encouraged her to try to do more things on her own – particularly when I moved over an hour away from her for a new job. Thankfully, she had my aunts and cousins nearby and they often picked up my slack and I will always be grateful for that. Being on her own couldn’t have been easy for her, but I was proud of her because she always tried her best.
I was never the perfect child to have parents who were deaf. I’m notoriously impatient, slightly selfish, and sometimes resentful. Just as my parents did their best to navigate this world, I suppose I did too. I hope that they are proud of me for relating these stories and for opening up the deaf world to more hearing people. The more people understand people who are considered different, the better off this world will be.